What: BestMark is a national consumer experience research firm that specializes in sending mystery shoppers to businesses, restaurants and retail stores.

Expected pay: $10 – $25 per shop (or reimbursement for purchases)

Husl$core: $$$

Commissions & Fees: none

Where: Nationwide

Requirements: 18 or older; reliable transportation; internet and computer access; good communication skills

Review:

BestMark is a consumer experience company that contracts with mystery shoppers nationwide. Mystery shoppers are ordinary people who report on what it’s like to do business with consumer-facing companies, ranging from health care operations to electronics stores. The job is highly flexible — and sometimes fun — but poorly paid.

Once you sign up, you’re given the ability to request one or more mystery shops in your geographic region. You choose what you want to do. You also pick and choose among jobs that can be done when you want to work. Once you schedule a shop, the site will expect you to complete the job on time and file a report before 10 a.m. — Central time — the following day. Failure to complete the shop as scheduled or file the report on time can jeopardize getting paid. And, they don’t care if you live in Hawaii and it’s not even light yet when the report is due. 

Pay comes in three varieties — a flat fee; a flat fee plus reimbursement for a product; or simple reimbursement. However, when you factor in your cost of getting to and from the shop; completing the observation and filing the report, the pay rarely adds to even minimum wage.

Sample shops

When we tested the site, for instance, there were 16 shops available within 50 miles of our tester’s location. However, all required at least a 20-minute drive each way. The nearest assignment (17.5 miles away) was to evaluate the cleanliness of a salon and see if the salon honored a free first visit coupon. The pay: $18. We estimated that the job, including transportation time, would require a minimum of two hours. If you accounted for mileage at the IRS’s 58 cents per mile rate (35 miles x 58 cents = $20.30), you would have actually lost money on this job.

Another assignment was to test whether a video game retailer would stop an underage kid from buying a game for mature audiences. Pay for that job was $11 — total for both you and the requisite minor that you had to bring with you. You were instructed to split up in the store and both independently buy — or try to buy — something. If the child was able to buy the video game, you were instructed to immediately return it. There was no reimbursement for what you bought, so it presumably came out of the flat fee you got for the job.  Best case scenario: You earned about $3 an hour and owe your teen a favor.

BestMark pays mystery shoppers twice monthly by either direct deposit, PayPal or gift card.

The cool part

This is obviously not well-paid work. However, mystery shopping has some redeeming qualities. For instance, if you happen to want an eyebrow or bikini wax, doing it as a mystery shop provides extra compensation for something you would do anyway. You can review restaurants and get free meals; or review clothing stores and get reimbursed for some of your purchases.

Our take

If you’re just looking for pay, look elsewhere. But, if you’re looking for a way to get someone to subsidize your grocery/electronics/clothing/restaurant bills, it’s worth a try. But, don’t forget about the deadlines. If you’re on the West Coast, make sure you file your report the night of the shop, rather than waiting for the next day, so you don’t chance missing the deadline and getting stiffed.

Intrigued? Then we’d suggest that you sign up with several companies and cherry pick the jobs you want. Another mystery shopping firm to consider: Secret Shopper.

What their shoppers say

(from Indeed)

It was not a lot of money, but it was fun to do.

It is easy and I am able to be home with my daughter. I am given certain amount of points a day, and then able to work on those for a certain amount of time.

I’ve been doing mystery shops for a while now because it allows me to be a stay at home mother and earn a little income without having to pay for day care services. I enjoy giving feedback on customer service and products provided and it has kept me active with modern technology, since it is all online.

Conducting anonymous surveys at some of your favorite restaurants, hotels, retail stores.

You work alone and manage your own time and schedule.

The most enjoyable part of the job is being able to eat, shop and play for payment and or reimbursements.

An individual would have to be desperate to do this work. BestMark will give you 1 hour of pre-shop study material (all their specifications as to just what and how you must do everything, including a test) … then 1 1/2 to 2 hours to complete their detailed shop and driving time, then another hour to complete the actual paperwork submitted online with all the details of the ‘shop’ written up for them. In my case, it was $15.00 offered for what would have been 4 hours of work plus gas expense out of my pocket.

I usually can do shops were I will be refunded for things I like doing.